ACLU hosts community policing forum in Worthington

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WORTHINGTON, Minn. (KSFY) - The ACLU, along with United Food & Commercial Workers Local 1161 and Familias Juntas, hosted a community policing forum at the Church of St. Mary in Worthington on Sunday afternoon.

The forum came just weeks after the ACLU released a video of a Worthington police officer brutally beating a man during a routine traffic stop.

Nearly 300 community members turned out to speak to Police Chief Troy Appel, Patrol Sergeant Brett Wiltrout, Mayor Mike Kuhle, State Rep. Rod Hamilton and House Rep. Tim Walz. The forum was simultaneously translated into different languages.

Residents said they think the police department needs to be more diverse in order to understand the needs of a community with a large immigrant and refugee population.

"They don't reflect the diversity of the community, I know a majority of them are white and there's a lot of people of color that live here," said Sarah Cham, a Worthington resident. "A lot of people in this community don't speak English in order to communicate we need to have people that speak Spanish. I think that's really important."

Cham explained to the panel, through tears, how she cried when her brother got his driver's license, because she says she's terrified that her 17-year-old African-American brother will end up like Philando Castile or Trayvon Martin.

The Worthington Police Department says they're all ears.

"We actually do consider their concerns and we're willing to talk about it rather than just shoving that off the side and just doing our job," said Chief Troy Appel. "There's more to it than that and that just makes for a better community when again, when we understand each other."

And the concerns of the community are headed all the way back to Washington, D.C.

"This is where Worthington, I think, helps teach not just this area and the rest of the state, but the rest of the country," explained Rep. Tim Walz. "How do we work through these issues of diversity? How do we work through community policing? How do we make sure we're building trust amongst our neighbors? And that's what today was about."

And there's one thing everyone agrees on...

"I just hope that we can continue to have these public forums and work together," said Cham.

"We're all in this together -- this reflection of the community will solve this -- and it felt really good to me, with the immigrant community that's here and seeing themselves as part of it and addressing it in a really positive manner," Walz said.

The Worthington Police will host its own community policing forum next Sunday, July 16, 2017 at Chautauqua Park from 4-6 p.m. The forum will include demos of traffic stops, K-9 policing, drug recognition and a question and answer session.

Chief Appel said he couldn't comment on the release of the police brutality video because the investigation is ongoing.